Hurdler Abderrahman Samba and 800m runner Abubaker Haydar Abdalla kept the Qatar flag flying high on the second day of the IAAF World Athletics Championships yesterday, both advancing to the next round of their respective disciplines.
Samba was in the same heats as his American rival Rai Benjamin, and the two unsurprisingly locked the top two spots for a lane in tomorrow’s 400m hurdles final.
While US national champion Benjamin ran a 48.52 to win the heats, Samba, the Asian champion, crossed the finish line in 48.72 seconds. The two have already clocked the third fastest time in history at 46.98 – while Samba ran the time in Paris last year, Benjamin’s effort was good enough for a second place in Zurich.
“So far, I am enjoying these championships and the atmosphere. But ask me after the final if I still do. It is great to run here in front of my home crowd. Feeling great support… (but) no pressure,” Samba said after his run yesterday.
For his part, Benjamin felt confident about his preparations for his first world championships. “I feel pretty good. I just wanted to get out there and manage the race and run smart so that I could set up a good final on Monday,” he said.
“All the Diamond Leagues have prepared me for this. I am used to the hype and the talk, so it is pretty exciting. I love the warmth here a lot.”
That night in Zurich in August, it was defending world champion Karsten Warholm who had ran a blistering 46.92 seconds to beat Benjamin, and even yesterday, ran the fastest time of the semi-finals, winning the second heat of the discipline in 48.28 seconds.
Norwegian Warholm, eased past his competition in his semi-final heat and was his usual confident self, when he said, “On the track, I felt better than yesterday. I think I managed a pretty good run and maybe spared some energy for the final. I did not have the chance to watch the others but it is OK. I am just focused on myself.”
Brazilian Alison Dos Santos’ personal best of 48.35 was good enough for a win in the first heat and a spot in the final.
South American champion Dos Santos finished 0.04 seconds ahead of Turkey’s Yasmani Copello, who ran his season’s best 48.39.
And with that, the 400m hurdles has expectedly become a tantalising affair, with the athletes with three fastest times in 26 years since Kevin Young set a world record 46.78 all in tomorrow’s final.
Earlier in the evening, after a loud cheer at the air-conditioned Khalifa International Stadium from the home fans, Asian champion Abdalla breezed into the semi-final of the men’s 800m with a second place finish in the third heat of the discipline.
The 23-year-old finished second behind Canada’s Brandon McBride on a day when the sixth fastest athlete of all time in the discipline, Emmanuel Kipkurui Korir of Kenya set the fastest time – 1:45.16.
Korir’s compatriot Ferguson Rotich (1:45.98), second on this year’s world list with 1:42.54, was the last of the 10 athletes who were under 1minute 46 seconds.
“As planned I tried to get to the semi-final, and thanks to God, I managed to do that. Tomorrow hopefully we will be running again, and I will do my best to reach the finals,” said Abdalla, who reckons that a time of 1:44 will be a safe time to earn a spot in the final.
Talking about his experience out there on the track at home, he said, “It was great. We had the Asian championships here too, and now the Worlds. To be able to compete at two big championships at home, that is something… Not every athlete gets that opportunity.
“Your friends and family are here to cheer you on. It gives you more motivation to perform well. We have great athletes on our team: Barshim, Haroun, Samba and I am fortunate to be a part of it.”
Abdalla’s compatriot Jamal Hairane fell just short of a place in the semi-final after he finished fifth in the second heat, which was won by Kenyan Ngeno Kipngetich. While Hairane’s time of 1:46.40 kept him in the fray for a spot right till the last heat, it wasn’t enough.
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